How To: Part Two

“Remember, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.”
Dale Carnegie


How To: Part Two

This is a follow up to my prior post.

The experts on living will tell you to be “in the moment”. This is a bit vague. There is a very specific way to be in the moment. Using art terms might make your brain check out, stick with it until the end.

There are two activities to living life. One is technique and then applying that technique to performance.

Technique is something that you can practice. For a musician it is practicing scales, for a salesman it is getting the customer to say “yes”, for a chef it is mincing, dicing and chopping, for a basketball player it is shooting skills.

Everything that you do every day has a technique to it. Taking a shower, making breakfast, driving to work, being a parent, being in love, recovering from injury and so on.

Because technique is a repeated practice, the brain tends to drop that into a lower focus and one can begin to drift and think of other things. We have terms for that process like auto-pilot.

Those who seek to live a profound life want to avoid going through life on auto-pilot. This is something that is too easy to do and, of course, there is a technique for staying in the moment.

Using a shower as an example, there is a technique to washing yourself. The performance of taking a shower is much greater than the individual techniques. When you focus on the technique of being specific in your shampoo dose and your rinsing task then you stay in the moment and might even sing in the shower because you are living. Be honest, when is the last time you sang in the shower?

We know that there are times when technique will cycle up and accelerate for a brief time; this is when a basketball player gets the hot hand. We look for those moments because that is when we can be brilliant.

Again, we can look at the horrible boss scenario. This kind of boss wants to belittle you and keep you doubting and all of those petty things.

Secretary: The boss wants to see you.
You: Okay.
Boss: Hello Miranda
You: Hi.
Boss: Do you know why I called you in here?
You: No.
Boss: On the Miller Report, the numbers don’t add up.
You: I’m sorry.

This boss has called you in cold and blind-sided you and put you on the spot. Asking that question puts you on the defensive and your mind goes nuts for a while thinking of the thousands of things that could be wrong.

You don’t have to play the victim here at all. There are thousands of resources on negotiation, diplomacy, salesmanship, lawyering and more. Learning some techniques will keep you from being cornered by a bad boss.

Secretary: The boss wants to see you.
You: Okay
Boss: Hello Miranda
You: Hello Mark
Boss: Do you know why I called you in here?
You: You want me to guess?
Boss: On the Miller Report, the numbers don’t add up.
You: Okay, this is very important. It is a small part of my job but lets look into it.

Calling your boss by name puts you on a more equal footing. Answering a question with a question negates the terror ramping up. Redefining the problem makes it smaller and better managed.

One does not read a book “ten things to best your boss” and walk into the office all empowered. This will fail. Life does not have a script. When you learn a technique like calling a person by their name, you practice it all of the time; on the mailman, the grocer, the child bouncing a ball.

The horrible boss example is a good one because the answer is not to be combative but instead owning the situation. When you are in that office, in the hot seat, it is time to live and have a profound experience. But, all of those techniques must be practiced over and over in your life so they are in use, really, all of the time. Again, it is not about winning, it is about controlling the situation. And, your technique might ramp up and you can be brilliant. You can make that bad boss be your good boss, he really wants to be a good boss and must be taught how.

Our auto-pilot is very powerful. Drunk people can black out and wake up at home, not knowing how they got there; but they drove their car home. That is a great example of how powerful auto-pilot can be.

How about breakfast? When you pay attention to your technique of chopping onions and swirling eggs and adding just the right amount of salt, you can make a great omelet. Then you eat and critically enjoy your cooking, each bite has its own flavor: then you are living. It is as simple as that. Perhaps one day, you have inspiration and you know that a new ingredient will be amazing: then you have had a profound moment in your life. You can do this! You can be brilliant.

I am not a parent but I know that it is easy to fall into the “no noise means no problem” trap. Parents yearn for their “me time” when they can relax and watch television on auto-pilot. There are techniques for parenting and, for that matter, there are techniques for watching television.

The television has been the captain of our auto-pilot for all of our lives. That thing has been on and running and dropping us into auto-pilot mode for a very long time. We can not avoid it nor can we turn it off. But there is a technique to watching television.

If there are shows that you really like, record them. When you watch them, skip the commercials and actively watch the show. This prevents you from being swayed by commercial products, lets you get the most out of the show and reduces precious time spent by a third.

Use the tools that you have when watching television. If you are watching a well-written classic like It Happened One Night, turn on the closed caption and really follow the language. I like to turn off the sound for musical numbers so I can watch the choreography. Hermes Pan was the choreographer for Fred Astaire and it is worth watching.

Live sports must be watched live. Recording sports doesn’t work because the fate of the game is not scripted.

The thing to avoid is dropping into auto-pilot mode and watching back-to-back episodes of Mom or Friends or the Weather Channel or “breaking news”. This is not living. This is sucking your soul into a box after you have given up control of your life.

Everything that you do in life, even typing this blog, requires practiced technique which is then applied to the performance of writing. This is living. Ever show up to work wearing two different colored socks? Buddy, your head was not in the game.

Being in the moment, being present, being alive are all fairly vague expressions of what it means to live a profound life. Folding it all in back on itself by paying attention to what you are doing and looking for that moment of brilliance is not a hard task.

Performance is always greater than technique. There is more to playing basketball than shooting, there is passing, playing defense and so on. There is more to being in a band than playing chords, you are playing a song with other musicians. There is more to being married than remembering birthdays, it is a daily constant terrific life.

The posers out there with ten steps to winning or five steps to power or seven steps to success are all adding a nasty layer on top of the basics of life. Our technique must be practiced with the intention of owning the situation, not beating the other guy. There is no profit when the other guy loses, ever.

Learn a new way to peel an onion, drive a new path to work, explore an art form, talk to your neighbor; find new techniques to keep you in the moments of the mundane tasks in life that can drop you into auto pilot. Stay alive and live.

Trust me, you want to sing in the shower. That is living in the moment.

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